Gareth Southgate said Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel are eyeing up the England job because he has « made the impossible look possible. »
Former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino said last week he was « open » to the idea of managing England if the role became available while Tuchel has privately circulated his interest following his departure from Chelsea.
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Southgate is under contract until 2024 but speculation persists that he could end a six-year tenure following the tournament in Qatar, particularly if England underperforms.
Upon taking charge, England were mired in disappointment and controversy with Roy Hodgson sacked following a humiliating last-16 exit to Iceland at Euro 2016 and his successor Sam Allardyce axed following off-field controversy involving allegations of advising third parties on circumventing transfer regulations.
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Southgate has since guided England to the 2018 World Cup semifinals and last summer’s delayed Euro 2020 final, losing to Italy in a penalty shoot-out, as the 52-year-old has made huge progress in what has been dubbed « the impossible job. «
« Maybe we’ve made the impossible just look possible, » Southgate said. « Yeah, look, maybe we’ve made it look possible and its exciting for other people and I can understand that.
« We want England to be competitive for years to come and I believe that our academy system has got that.
« I think there are challenges within that because we’re back to 31 per cent of the league being eligible for England and only four or five exports of a high level so there are still some challenges for us in terms of development of players and opportunity for players.
« But we have also got some good players and we should be competitive for the next six, eight years with this group. »
England face Iran in their Group B opener on Monday and despite the progress England have made, they still have just one tournament success to their name — the 1966 World Cup.
They arrive here in Qatar as one of the favorites and Southgate believes England must now establish themselves as serial tournament challengers.
He said: « It is hard to talk about form because you are always six weeks, two months between games in international football so what actually is form? »
« What there is, is pedigree. We want to be a Germany, who when I was looking at their Wikipedia page: four golds, four silvers, four bronzes, European Championships three goals, three silvers, three bronzes.
« Yeah, our page didn’t quite look like that but we’d love it if it did in 40 years’ time and that should be our aim, to be consistently challenging. »
James Maddison missed England’s final training session at their Al Wakrah base on Sunday as he continues to recover from a knee problem and Southgate said on Sunday he would miss the match against Iran. Kyle Walker is unlikely to feature following groin surgery.
Regardless of his future with the Three Lions, Southgate’s opposing number in the Iran dugout had the highest of praise for the England manager on Sunday.
In his fourth successive World Cup as a national team coach, Iran’s Carlos Queiroz, a former Real Madrid and Portugal manager, said Southgate’s England had been one of the world’s best since the 2018 World Cup, having mastered football’s basics.
« The new generation that Gareth Southgate is bringing for the national team, in my opinion, is probably the most talented, most competitive English national team since 1966, » he told a news conference on Sunday.
« This team, it is very, very functional, very practical, very realistic. »